Breathe in the knowledge -by Lindsay Welch

lindsay-welchLindsay Welch is the Integrated COPD Team Lead; Solent NHS Trust and UHS NHS Foundation Trust

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a preventable disease and is one of the world’s biggest killers – it causes a narrowing of the breathing tubes and air sacs in our chest and lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen we can get into our bodies. There are several causes, air pollution and exposure to dust, but the main culprit is smoking. It is estimated that over three million people with COPD in the UK but only a quarter of those are diagnosed

Lindsay and her colleagues organised an event to coincide with World COPD Day in November 2016. These are her reflections on the day:

Planning a delivering a lung health awareness event, to promote lung health in the Southampton community was definitely a team effort. Previously we have aimed  to continue with the ethos to ‘find the missing millions’, case find, encourage those smokers or ex-smokers with enduring coughs breathlessness and recurrent chest infections, to seek help and get checked.  This year the theme was ‘Breathe in the Knowledge’ – a great opportunity to show case the services the Integrated COPD Team deliver in Southampton city and across Hampshire.

The planning group was made up of clinical and research staff from Solent, UHS, Southern, University of Southampton and NIHR CLAHRC Wessex research themes. Together we all had wonderful patient stories to tell the community, about the work we all do and can do for others.

Mal North kindly took on the task of pulling these ‘snapshot stories together, in a photo journal style. He said: “COPD is the fourth biggest killer in the world and the second highest reason for people to be admitted to hospital –– but around 80% of people aren’t familiar with condition COPD. We all know smoking has a link to cancer, but its link to COPD is just as serious. We have spent years researching the best ways to support and treat people with the condition, and this event shows just how driven we are to get the message out to people.”

The day itself – although in a small area of the front of Southampton General Hospital – was well received and represented across the whole patient journey through COPD.

COPD patient knowledge starts with recognition and help-seeking, the CLAHRC team, and the primary care COPD liaison nurse attended to show case their primary care work. The journey moved to pulmonary rehabilitation, learning and education about treatment, self- care exercise and staying well; teams for 3 trusts delivered a small exercise regime in the foyer.

The patients journey can often take a turn for the worst and they may face hospital admission due to acute episodes , or exacerbations of the disease; the UHS acute community respiratory nursing team were well represented and liaised with colleagues and public about the difficult work they do, taking unwell patients with COPD home from hospital.

Clinical deterioration of COPD and the end of life in COPD is a part of the pathway we should not overlook, further support such as oxygen therapy, or Non-Invasive Ventilation may be required to support patients to breath in the later sections of their disease.

Dr Havelock the Consultant from Southampton Respiratory centre and Lead for the Oxygen service attended for the day – along with nurses from UHS and Southern Health supported discharge teams, who often manage these acute phases of the disease in patients’ homes.tom-havelock

He commented “How great it is for patients to be able to have all of these services working together.. This way we can support the patient on their illness journey through the right services at the right time, and in the right locality.’’

World COPD Day was a well-received public awareness event in which clinical experience could be shared and knowledge gained as well and achieving the aim of giving public knowledge of COPD.

  • 20% of COPD is not smoking related
  • COPD kills around 30,000 people a year in the UK, second only to lung cancer at 35,000 people a year
  • Around 3 million people in the UK have COPD, but 2 million are undiagnosed
  • Up to a quarter of long-term smokers will go on to develop COPD

More information on COPD from the British Lung Foundation


Denise Burgess from Hythe near Southampton has been living with COPD for 15 years, and benefits support from NHS specialists working with her GP “Life’s much better. Things are so much brighter now I can breathe. I know there’s no cure but I can live with it now.

My husband Brian and I can walk for miles now. I couldn’t make it down Lymington High Street before but now I can walk and just keep on walking. We had a party earlier this year for my daughter and I got up and danced. She said she hadn’t seen me do that in years!

My next target is to get to West Quay to do the Christmas shopping for everyone. It’s something I could never have done before. Then the next big thing is to fly to San Francisco next year to see my daughter and grandsons.”

Denise was diagnosed just after her daughters wedding in 2001 when she was just 52. She started to be sick from the build-up of mucus in her lungs. “It was those stupid cigarettes” she adds.

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